Democratic primary could decide abortion rights in Virginia


When Lashrecse Aird began running for the Virginia State Senate, most voters she spoke to had no idea that her opponent, incumbent Joe Morrissey, was an anti-abortion Democrat. Now, over a year later and just days before the primary, Aird believes many people in Virginia’s 13th Senate district are deeply concerned about Morrissey’s views on abortion, especially given Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to restrict access in the state .

The primary, scheduled for June 20, will have far-reaching implications for the fate of abortion rights, not just in Virginia but throughout the Southeast. Youngkin has continued to campaign for a 15-week abortion ban and has said in the past that he “happy and cheerful“Sign off on every anti-choice bill passed by the legislature. Earlier this year, Virginia Democrats won a key seat in the state Senate in a special election giving Democrats the numbers to successfully thwart Youngkin’s proposed 15-week suspension in the latest session. But the majority of Democrats in the state Senate is slim at 22 to 18, meaning every vote in favor of the election counts — and every anti-abortion poses a threat. Morrissey has called he would support a 15-week abortion ban (although he has since done so). decreased these statements) and has broken with his party on abortion legislation in the past.

That means Morrissey, a self-proclaimed “pro-life” Democrat, could turn Youngkin’s promise into action.

“He used to brag about his position and now he’s scared of running away,” Aird said of Morrissey. “He has never been held accountable for his stance on abortion and he would like to change the subject.”

In 2020, Morrissey voted against legislation that would remove targeted restrictions on abortion providers, and last year he co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban with Senator Amanda Chase (R), known by her nickname.Trump in heels.” Earlier this year, when Morrissey would have cast the casting vote in an attempt to codify reproductive rights in the state constitution, he abstained and allowed the bill to fail. Virginia currently allows abortions up to the second and third trimesters when the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

Whoever wins the Virginia Senate seat will face Republican challenger Eric Ditri in November’s general election. The majority-minority borough, which includes both rural and urban areas, is likely to go blue, making the primary race the main event.

The much-anticipated Democratic race has shaken up the party in Virginia. While Morrissey still has it some supporters of the partythe six Democratic women serving in the state Senate endorsed Aird in one opinion sharp criticism of her colleague Morrissey. Aird has also secured the support of Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives. It is unusual for MPs not to support their party’s incumbent.

“At a time when women’s reproductive health care and access to abortion are under attack across the country and the Commonwealth, Virginia Democrats have repeatedly reiterated their steadfast commitment to protecting women’s lives,” the Democrats wrote Senators in their approval opinion. “However, a member of the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus has used his votes on this issue as a bludgeon against other caucus members.”

“Morrissey has long stood on the wrong side of the values ​​held dear by Virginia Democratic voters,” the statement continued. “His public behavior has drawn attention to himself and not to the needs of his constituents for years.”

Morrissey initially responded to his fellow Democrats endorsing Aird by saying they would perform abortions.the only problem” in the main race if there are several.

In a statement to HuffPost, Morrissey said he believes that “the decision to have an abortion lies between a woman and her doctor, and that legislators should never tell men or women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.” He added added that should a state ban on abortion come into force, there should be exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the pregnant person.

“I’m disappointed that my opponent keeps getting my position mixed up, but I have no control over that,” he said, although he went on to say that he believed abortion should be restricted if he believed a fetus could be in pain feel, around the 22nd to 24 week range.

“This is a decision pending in this county but impacting the rest of Virginia and other states that are dependent on it.” [abortion] access here in Virginia.”

– Lashrecse Aird, candidate for Virginia’s 13th Senate District

“It might sound like a single topic to him, but to the constituents I speak to, it’s inseparable from everything else,” Aird said. “When a person is faced with the decision of when or not to start a family, they think about their finances, they think about the school systems that surround them, they think about whether they live in a safe community.”

“It’s not just another problem, it’s the problem,” she added.

Morrissey’s pro-abortion views aren’t the only thing that has drawn many of his fellow Democrats to support Aird. The 65-year-old is a double-disbarred defense attorney who resigned from the House of Representatives in 2014 after being convicted of involvement in the crime of a minor following a sexual relationship with the receptionist at his 17-year law firm. Morrissey married the woman a few years later and has four children with her, but the two are currently locked in a very public divorce.

The state senator’s story “shows how embarrassing he was for the faction,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. Planned Parenthood rarely gets involved in primary elections, but the organization has supported Aird in that race — the group’s only primary election support in 2023. EMILY’s list And NARAL Pro Choice America have also supported Aird.

What happens in Virginia will be felt throughout the Southeast as the state has quickly emerged as an unlikely safe haven for abortion treatments in the region. North Carolina passed the law last month a 12-week banAnd Florida And South Carolina awaiting court decisions that could allow six-week lockdowns to come into effect.

“My focus is on the constituents of this county, but it’s caught my eye that we can’t go wrong,” Aird said. “This is a decision pending in this county but impacting the rest of Virginia and other states that are dependent on it.” [abortion] access here in Virginia.”

Aird has made abortion rights a mainstay of her campaign and last month launched a “Roe Not Joe” tour, touring the 13th Precinct hosting rallies and roundtables about the importance of reproductive freedom.

At one event, a Virginia mother spoke about her own abortion experience 21 weeks after she and her husband found out her pregnancy was not viable. Because of Morrissey’s proposed 20-week abortion ban, she would not have been able to access the critical care she needed.

“The laws that are now being proposed — laws that Joe Morrissey supports — would not have allowed me to make the decision that I made,” she said. “I would have been forced to potentially carry and deliver a dying baby to full delivery. Regardless of what exceptions they include in these proposals, there is no way to cover every unique scenario that a pregnant woman might face.”

Aird’s focus on reproductive rights has apparently forced Morrissey to retract his earlier anti-election statements. In addition to his comments to HuffPost, Morrissey said The Associated Press that he probably wouldn’t support Youngkin’s 15-week ban because he hasn’t seen evidence that this is the point at which a fetus can feel pain.

“He was trying to deviate from his voting behavior,” said Planned Parenthood’s Lockhart. “While he has consistently sided with anti-abortion Republicans as a state senator, he has now falsified his own record after realizing how distant his views are from voters.”

As Election Day approaches, Aird recalls the passionate conversations she had with voters over the year and a half of her campaign. One interaction really stuck in her mind.

“I remember knocking on a door and speaking to a voter who looked me in the eye and was deeply concerned about the future of abortion access here in Virginia. “Her eyes were almost watering with fear of what might happen,” Aird said.

“I looked at her and said, ‘If we win this election, this Democratic primary, not only are we going to protect the rights here in Virginia for those in this county, but we’re going to make sure that others who come to Virginia have to come.’ will continue to have that access,” she said. “That fear she felt will no longer exist if we win.”

Related Articles

Back to top button